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May. 15th, 2017 05:58 am
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Hello and welcome to Lily's Reviews!

I like to read a lot of books and many different genres.

I will consider all requests, but sometimes it may take me longer to post reviews than I would like - and I apologize for that!

The links below is where I may be found online:
Amazon Storefront

If you would like to request a review, my e-mail address is: gabbylraines@gmail.com

Thank you for stopping by.

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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Tawdra Kandle with a guest post about her latest release - Your Wildest Dreams. Welcome, Ms. Kandle!

I never planned to write Zelda and Tuck’s story.

Back in 2010, I began to write what later became the first three books of the Keeping Score series—the story of Nate, Quinn and Leo. Those three characters were based on something real, on people I knew—and I never intended the story to go beyond them.

However, as is usually the case for me, several sets of side characters popped up—and they turned out to be as compelling as the main trio. There were six who intrigued me enough to consider additional sequels to When We Were Us, Hanging By A Moment and Days of You and Me. Gia and Tate had their chance in Not Broken Anymore. Gideon and Sarah will have their day in Sway. But between those two books came Your Wildest Dreams.

Zelda first sashayed into my life when Quinn needed a college roommate. I intended that girl to be fairly non-descript and quiet. Ha!! All of a sudden, Zelda Porter leaped onto the scene, bigger than life, with an attitude and a capacity for loyalty and friendship that blew me away. Right after her intro, she had a strong reaction to Nate’s roommate—and I knew why. I knew how Zelda and Eli Tucker knew each other. But I couldn’t tell anyone yet—we were in the middle of Hanging By A Moment, and it was clear that these two needed their own book.

I often tell readers that I live with the characters for months or even years before I actually write their stories, and it’s true. I lived with Tuck and Zelda for several years, and over that time, Tuck was very talkative, but Zelda was not. She revealed her background and details to me sparingly and almost grudgingly. And odd as it sounds, it seemed that once she had shared something particularly deep, she fell silent for long periods. I couldn’t move on—until she was ready.

When the beta readers began delving into Your Wildest Dreams, I wasn’t certain what to expect. After all, this was basically the third telling of the same time period, just with different points of view and different priorities. But to my relief and joy, the readers realized how much they loved Zelda, in particular, and Tuck and Zelda as a couple. They saw the same events from a fresh perspective. And it all worked.

I’ve seldom written a character as nuanced and complex as Zelda . . . but it was completely worth the exercise. I’m very excited that their story really isn’t over—the two of them will be part of a spin-off series set at Birch College, where Tuck will be the new assistant coach for the football team. I can’t wait to visit with them again and meet an all new cast of characters to challenge me.

Thank you, Ms. Kandle, for stopping by and talking a little bit about how Your Wildest Dreams came about.

Your Wildest Dreams Info

I don’t do love.

I don’t do relationships.

But then Eli Tucker came back into my life.

Football is everything, but love is the only game that matters.

When Eli Tucker meets Zelda Porter on the first day of their college freshman year, he thinks she’s vaguely familiar. But he’d remember a woman like her, wouldn’t he? Zelda’s blonde, built and beautiful . . . just Tuck’s type, back when he had a type. Back when he was a football star. Back before he snapped his spine and ended up paralyzed.

Zelda’s memory of her first encounter with Tuck is all too vivid, but that was a long time and many guys ago. She’s not interested in long term or love. Men exist to meet a temporary need, and that’s all she wants. Even if Eli Tucker still stirs something in her heart, she can’t afford the pain that might come from allowing him closer.

Still, even though Tuck can’t run for touchdowns anymore, he knows what wins the game: Hold on tight to what matters most. Use the element of surprise to your advantage. Fight like hell for every down.
And, no matter what, never give up.

Buy Links:
Apple Books

Tawdra Kandle may be found on her site, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram
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Today, Lily's Reviews is hosting an excerpt from Olivia Drake's The Duke I Once Knew.

First, a little bit about the book:

Award-winning author Olivia Drake begins her new Unlikely Duchesses series with THE DUKE I ONCE KNEW (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; December 31, 2018). With compelling characters and skillful plot twists, Drake’s latest novel will take your breath away.

First love is always the sweetest…

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart. But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again.

Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him … even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?

About the Author:
Olivia Drake is the author of the Cinderella Sisterhood series (Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, Scandal of the Year, If the Slipper Fits, Stroke of Midnight, Abducted by the Prince, Bella and the Beast, His Wicked Wish, and The Scandalous Flirt). She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times. She has also won the prestigious RITA award. She currently resides in Houston, TX.

You can purchase this book here.

Author Website
Author Twitter: @OliviaDrake1
Author Facebook: Olivia Drake

SMP Romance Twitter: @SMPRomance or @heroesnhearts
SMP Romance Website: Heroes & Heartbreakers

And, now, for the excerpt:

The sounds of cooing and kissing mortified her. Good heavens, would they never stop? Anyone might walk into
the library! They ought to have the decency to take their amorous activities upstairs to a bedchamber.

But, of course, Rothwell did not possess a shred of decency. It made her cringe to recall that she herself had once fallen prey to his allure.

She risked another look over the edge of the table. Her eyes goggled.

The duke was delving beneath the hem of his paramour’s gown, sliding his hand up her ankle and out of
sight. The ladybird squirmed and squealed in a frisky attempt at evasion. He leaned down and silenced her playful protests with a masterful kiss.

Abby sank back down again. Her pulse pounded and a blush heated her inside and out. She oughtn’t be so scandalized. Rothwell had a reputation as a notorious rake. Over the years, she had heard many a tale whispered among the neighbors of his disgraceful doings. Yet it was one thing to listen to idle gossip and quite another to actually witness him in the throes of depravity.

And here she was, trapped. What was she to do?

If she made her presence known, the duke would find out that Miss Abigail Linton was the new governess. She
could not be absolutely certain that he had forgotten her. And if he did remember, he surely would dismiss her on the spot, for he wanted nothing to do with her.

Her spirits fell into a fit of the dismals. That would mark the end of her little adventure out into the world. Oh, she could apply for a position elsewhere, but who would hire her if she’d been summarily discharged from her previous post? She would be forced to return to her brother’s house and resume her predictable life as the maiden aunt, growing withered and gray, shuttled between relatives, with no
real say in her future.

The very thought was suffocating.

Nevertheless, she could not continue to crouch here while the two lovers were smooching and whispering.
What if their intimate activities escalated? What if they did the deed right here, right now?

The horrid prospect spurred Abby to action. She must try to sneak out of the library unobserved. It was her only hope.

Dropping to her hands and knees, she crept along the carpet, weaving a path between the tables. Her long skirts hampered her progress, forcing her to inch along at a snail’s pace. Rothwell’s black boots were visible through a forest of chair legs. At least he was too distracted to notice her, judging by the amorous sounds emanating from across the room. To be safe,she made a wide berth around the couple.

Feverish plans raced through her head. If only she could reach the door and slip out, then all might be well. Perhaps she could convince Lady Gwendolyn not to mention the new governess to her brother. And what of Lady Hester? Was there a chance that she could be persuaded to bide her tongue, too? Should Abby confess the truth and enlist her help? Was it possible to stay out of sight until he departed the Court?

Sweet heaven, how long did he intend to stay?

In the midst of her meditations, she couldn’t help overhearing the syrupy drivel of their tête-à-tête.

“Your Grace, you are too bold! Such a naughty boy you are!”

“I left boyhood behind long ago. Shall I demonstrate?”

“Mm, no. You mustn’t . . . ah, yes. Yes!”

Abby grimaced under a tide of acute embarrassment. As she crawled closer to the door, she glared in the direction of the lovers. She could just see Rothwell’s legs pressed against a froth of cream skirts. Blast him and his debauchery! He was the worst of rogues, the king of scoundrels. A more wicked man had never been born—!

Too caught up in remonstrations to watch where she was going, Abby bumped her hip hard against a mahogany pedestal. A little squeak escaped before she could clap her hand to her mouth. At the same instant, a faint clanking noise drew her attention upward.

The globe atop the pedestal wobbled precariously. As she watched in horror, the sphere toppled from its perch and clunked onto the floor, where it rolled straight past the chairs and tables to land at Rothwell’s heels.

“What the devil—!”

Frozen in concealment, Abby watched wide-eyed through the maze of table legs as his boots shifted around.
A large male hand flashed down to stop the spinning of the globe. Any faint hope that he might assume it had
fallen of its own accord vanished in a millisecond.

Rothwell strode forward, his footfalls sharp and decisive. He came straight to her. To her great consternation, she found herself gazing at the polished black leather of his boots only a few inches away.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “What are you doing in here?”

Abby raised her chin only slightly, keeping her face averted. It was best that he didn’t gaze fully at her—or hear the normal pitch of her voice lest it trigger his memory. “I’m just a servant,” she whispered, “tending to my duties.”

“Speak up!Why did you not make your presence known at once?”

His dictatorial tone shredded her better judgment. “I was trying to leave discreetly,” she flared. “It didn’t strike me as wise to interrupt your tryst.” She paused, then added in a more servile tone, “I do beg your pardon, Your Grace.”

She felt his gaze boring down like a physical force that threatened to smother her. She wanted badly to look up, to glare into his face and tell him in no uncertain terms exactly what she thought of him.

But that would be highly imprudent.

With lightning swiftness, he clamped his hands around her upper arms and hauled Abby to her feet. She found
herself staring up into a pair of wintry gray eyes set in a face of unabashed masculinity. Although a dissipated life had hardened his expression and etched faint lines on either side of his mouth, he was more disturbingly handsome than ever. He also seemed taller and tougher, his chest broader and his shoulders wider.

She hated that he still had the power to make the breath catch in her throat. Worse, she hated that he had the authority to dismiss her with a snap of his arrogant fingers. As she racked her beleaguered brain for a way to convince him not to do so, something flickered in those icy eyes.


End of excerpt

Hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt from The Duke I Once Knew and I hope you will check the book out!
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Lexi Post. Take it away, Ms. Post!

Lexi has a $25 Gift Card to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/sPP5CV.

About One of a Kind Christmas:

For her to love him, he must face a spirit, an archangel…and himself.

The spirit of Cameron Douglas has totally screwed-up…again. Now, he has to fix his mess in one night with the help of his best friend and somehow encourage his widow to move on.

Holly Douglas is anguished that this is the last Christmas she’ll be visited by her late husband, Cameron. For three years he’s sent her the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and they‘ve helped her cope with her loss. But now all that ends, and she doesn’t understand why he must push her away.

Ethan Stewart has been in love with Holly since Cameron’s death, but she isolated herself from everyone, including him. Then something changed, and he was welcomed back as her friend. But he wants more— to love her openly, and most of all to make her happy again. Though he loved his best friend like a brother and will do anything for Holly, as he’s pulled into the spirit world, he discovers the price they must pay for their chance at forever…and it just might be too high.

Release Day: December 5, 2018

Buy Links for One of a Kind Christmas:

Amazon UK
Amazon AU
Amazon CA


He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them. “I miss Cam. It was as if we were two parts of the same soul. I lived vicariously through him even while I worried constantly about him. It was one of the reasons I was constantly warning him to be careful. I was afraid to lose him.”

Ethan looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “And then I did.”

She felt as if her heart were breaking all over again, not for her but for Ethan. He was so good to her. He even loved her. And she… “Ethan, I understand.”

His gaze returned to hers. Though she couldn’t see his face clearly, the limited light reflected off the sheen in his eyes.

She placed her hand on his cheek and rising on her toes brushed her lips across his in a feather-light kiss. She only meant to give comfort, but a spark of something else hit her heart.

She remained there, her lips close to his but not touching, wanting more but afraid to ask.

Ethan remained absolutely still, his breath mixing with her own.

He loved her but would never push her. It wasn’t his nature. She could walk away right now, but to what?


She stared at his mouth in the dim light. She wanted to live again. She wanted to feel again. Tilting her head, she pressed her lips more firmly against his, moving her hand down his stubbled jaw and behind his neck to pull him closer.

Ethan’s lips opened, and she slipped her tongue between them.

As his arms came around her, it was like waking from a dream. A slow burn flowed through her veins as he took control of the kiss and explored her mouth with his tongue. It was an unhurried exploration and heat built in her belly. When he pulled back to lick the underside of her top lip, she took her first deep breath. As she exhaled, tingles spread throughout her body.

He kissed the corners of her mouth before leaning his forehead against her own. “Ye catch my blood on fire, lass.”

Other Books in the Series:

A Christmas Carol Book 1, Pleasures of Christmas Past is on sale for only $.99!

Pleasures of Christmas Past (A Christmas Carol Book 1) by Post, Lexi

Jessica is assigned a hot, Scottish mentor who confuses her heart. But will he protect her soul?

Buy Links for Pleasures of Christmas Past:
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon UK

Desires of Christmas Present (A Christmas Carol Book 2) by Lexi Post
Sometimes not knowing is better…for everyone.

Desires of Christmas Present Buy Link: Amazon

Temptations of Christmas Future (A Christmas Carol Book 3) by Lexi Post
He set out to prove the future was far worse than she imagined. Now he wished it wasn’t.

Temptations of Christmas Future Buy Link: Amazon

About the Author:

Lexi Post is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of romance inspired by the classics. She spent years in higher education taking and teaching courses about the classical literature she loved. From Edgar Allan Poe's short story “The Masque of the Red Death” to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, she's read, studied, and taught wonderful classics.

But Lexi's first love is romance novels so she married her two first loves, romance and the classics. From hot paranormals to sizzling cowboys to hunks from out of this world, Lexi provides a sensuous experience with a “whole lotta story.”

Lexi is living her own happily ever after with her husband and her cat in Florida. She makes her own ice cream every weekend, loves bright colors, and you will never see her without a hat.

Lexi's Social Links:

Lexi Post Updates
Amazon Author Page

Thank you Ms. Post for stopping by Lily's Reviews!

Please be sure to check out the Rafflecopter giveaway to be found HERE
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Lucienne Diver with a guest post about her new release: The Countdown Club
Welcome, Ms. Diver!

The Countdown Club is the story of five kids with little in common, all of whom receive notes with expiration dates⸻telling them they have Two Days to Die or Six Days to Die or… There’s already a forensics club at the school, formed largely to investigate an old case where the uncle of one of the members was convicted of a murder he may not have committed. Some of those threatened even have connections to the club, and the rest join up to try to find the killer before he picks them off one by one.

I chose two of the five as POV characters: Rayna Butler and Jack Harkness, who couldn’t be more different if they tried. Rayna is an artsy girl with blue hair who prefers to see the beauty in the world and tune out the darkness…until it comes for her. Jack doesn’t have nearly her idyllic life or view of the world. He was a different kid once, but that kid is long gone. When his brother Eric became sick with leukemia, his mother retreated into the bottle, his father became a ticking time-bomb, overloaded with anger, and Jack became both parent and punching bag. To introduce Jack the way he’s introduced in the book:

Shit, shit, shit. He was going to be late. Again. He didn't give two craps about that, but if the school called home to report him as tardy or a skip, his father would use it as yet another excuse for a beating. Not that Dad ever needed an excuse.

But every beating got Jack closer to using the bug-out bag he'd been stuffing for the last nine months—stealing change left on the counter, hoping it wouldn't be missed, shaking down kids here and there for their lunch money, once even grabbing a twenty sitting out in the open on a teacher's desk. That had been risky, but the risk had paid off, and he'd certainly needed it more than Mr. Jorgenson.

He'd have bugged out already if it weren't for his little brother. Jack knew he'd do okay on the street by himself. He was tough and good-looking. Women wanted him. Not arrogance, just fact. Whether they thought he was older or just didn't care, he'd had enough eyelashes batted and phone numbers slipped to him that he had no delusions there. He was sure he could find a soft heart out there somewhere. Women loved a bad boy. But Eric...he couldn't leave him behind undefended, and he couldn’t bring him along. His brother wouldn't do well out in the world. He needed medical treatment and health insurance and all kinds of things Jack couldn't give him.

As you can see, the last thing Jack needs is one more worry, like a note telling him that he has Twelve Days To Die. Suddenly, his brother’s life isn’t the only one hanging in the balance. He doesn’t take it all that seriously at first; he doesn’t figure it’s anything he can’t handle.

Until the first death, right on schedule.

He needs to solve the mystery and stop the murders. For himself, but most of all so that he can be there for Eric.

Maybe a little bit for Maria, the good girl he’s always known wasn’t for him. And if he didn’t know, she’s made it clear enough. Until they’re thrown together in the killer’s crosshairs, and finally have something in common.

The other Meddlers (members of the forensics club)…well, I hope you’ll pick up The Countdown Club and that you’ll get to meet them. Rayna, Reggie, Grace, Kali, Charlie, Evan. Those meddling kids.

The Countdown Club sounds like a very interesting read. Thank you, Ms. Diver, for stopping by and sharing.

The book is available at the following locations:
Barnes & Noble (Nook and paperback formats)

Amazon (Kindle format)

Books-a-Million (paperback format)
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Alyssa Day to the blog with a special guest post - an excerpt from Christmas in Atlantis.

Welcome, Ms. Day!

Hello, Lily's Reviews readers! Happy holidays!! I'm trying not to stuff my face with leftover Halloween candy, and how is it that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up so fast??? 2018 went by far too fast!

I know I could drone on and on about myself, but instead I thought I'd do something fun. I love to read "first kiss" scenes—the attraction, intensity, desire, sometimes laughter, and sometimes revelation of that first kiss make me sigh with happiness. So I thought I'd share one of mine!

Here is the scene from CHRISTMAS IN ATLANTIS where you'll see Dare, a pirate, and Lyric, a painter, share a first-if slightly addled by his fever—kiss. Enjoy!! You can find the book—which just won the prestigious Maggie award for outstanding romance fiction!--and another excerpt at https://alyssaday.com/books/christmas-in-atlantis/overview.

Happy holidays!

CHRISTMAS IN ATLANTIS, by Alyssa Day, excerpt:

Lyric sighed.

“Dare. Enough. You’re burning up. Let me get you some antibiotics. A big, fat needle filled with penicillin might take your mind off your libido—"

“Your ass,” he mumbled dreamily, and she could feel him smile against her neck.

“And off my ass,” she agreed, sighing.

“Kiss me.”

“What?” Surely he hadn’t said…

“Kiss me, and I’ll let you go get needles and pessanillin. Pennalissen. Parasillin. Whatever.”

“Deal,” she said, before she could have second thoughts about taking total advantage of an injured, delirious man. He had his hands on her ass, after all.

“Deal. Now. And on my lips,” he said firmly. “No cheating with forehead kissing.”

Lyric took a deep breath. She needed to steel herself for this, in spite of—or perhaps because—she’d wanted it for so long.

“Okay, you can kiss me now.”

He laughed. “No, my copper-eyed beauty. You have to kiss me.”

She summoned her nerve and pulled away from him a little bit; just enough to raise her head so she could reach his lips with her own.

Her brain and all parts much farther south were doing cartwheels at the idea that she was planning to kiss Dare, so she told them to calm the heck down. This was going to be a chaste, calming, gentle kiss with a closed mouth, offered just so he’d let her go get medicine for him.

She took a deep breath, and then she leaned forward and reached toward the sound of his voice with her fingertips. When she found his mouth, she traced it for a moment, finding it firm and unsmiling, his lips softening at her touch. She took another breath, as if preparing to dive into dangerous waters, and touched her lips to his.

And the world turned upside down.

The moment her lips met his, Dare tightened his arms on her and half-sat, half -rolled, until he had her beneath him, and then he took total control over what she’d laughingly—ridiculously—thought was a kiss. That wasn’t a kiss.

This was a kiss.

He didn’t take; he plundered. He teased and seduced; advanced and retreated. He kissed her with skill and hunger and that sense of barely leashed power that made her head spin. She slipped her arms around him and kissed him back, meeting him beat for beat, breath for breath.

She wondered, gloried, reveled in the feel of his hard body against hers and the taste of salt and spice of his mouth.

This was a kiss—and she dimly realized that, once it ended, she would never, ever be the same.

Thank you for stopping by and for the wonderful excerpt.

Ms. Day is also offering three signed copies of Christmas in Atlantis to commenters.
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Amy Miles who has graciously provided a character interview for our readers. Welcome Ms. Miles and thank you for the wonderful interview!

Today we are sitting down with Avery and Cable, our power duo from WITHER, book 1 of author Amy Miles’ THE WITHERED SERIES to find out what surviving during a zombie apocalypse really feels like.

Interviewer: "Growing up on the streets is a hard way to live. Do you think learning to fend for yourself at a young age really helped prepare you for the apocalypse?"

Avery: "Sure. Not everyone grows up in a Leave it to Beaver sort of home. My mother wasn't exactly the best role model. She worked a lot, had a thing for bad guys and drowned her sorrows in the bottom of a bottle after my dad skipped town. My brother left not long after we moved to St. Louis so I was on my own a lot.

You learn some valuable lessons when you have to take care of yourself. Sometimes you do things that other people would snub their noses at just to eat. Sometimes you trust the wrong people. You learn by trial and fire. I guess that made me tougher than most girls when facing our new world."

Interviewer: What were your feelings when you first got your orders to deploy to St. Louis, MO to help control the rioting?

Cable: "Some pretty messed up shit as going down all over the place. St. Louis, New York, LA...didn't really matter where I was deployed. People were dying and I was sent to stop it."

Interviewer: "Why do you think you stuck by your mother's side after the world started falling apart? In the beginning you could have escaped without much trouble, yet you remained."

Avery: "I've asked myself that question more times than I can count. Obviously, there was no love shared between my mother and I. She and I were pretty much strangers in the same home. I avoided her and she liked that. It wasn't until her accident that left her in a coma that I actually spent any real time with her.

Part of me thinks maybe I stayed for closure. Maybe I just wanted her to wake up and admit that she'd wronged me. I don't know...it doesn't make sense, but then again, when has bitterness ever done so?"

Interviewer: Did you find it difficult to remain positive while you watched the world fall in decay?

Cable: "People do bad things, especially when they feel endangered. It doesn't take much to really see a person's character when their life is on the line. I've taken down some pretty vile creeps, but those aren't the ones who surprise me. It's the mom who turns on her own child, the brother who leaves his sister behind, the priest who sacrifices people on the streets and claims its salvation. It's sick."

Interviewer: "You went through quite a lot those first few days. Can you tell us a little about what you were thinking?"

Avery: "Honestly, I was shitting my pants most of the time and praying no one noticed. I'm not so good at letting people in, or needing them for that matter. I've always been a bit of a loner. I like my space. I like to be on my own. After Cable saved my life at the hospital and got me back on my feet, I was too stubborn to consider that he might actually be a good guy. So I did the idiotic thing and tried to make it on my own."

Interviewer: "And how did that work out for you?"

Avery: "I got kidnapped, twice. Yeah, it could have gone better."

Interviewer: Our readers would like to know why you chose to stick by Avery's side when you had justifiable reason to believe that she was turning.

Cable: "Most guys probably would have left her behind, but I'm not most guys. No matter how twisted this world gets, I have to believe that there is still good in it. Still hope that the world can go back to the way it was before. If I'd left her behind, I'd be no better than the people I try to keep in line on the streets."

Interviewer: "So then Cable saved you again?"

Avery: "Yeah. He's got this really annoying hero complex, but after a while you sort of get used to it. Actually, I guess that's not really being fair. Cable's a good guy and those are really rare in this world, especially now. I owe him a lot and that's hard to admit."

Interviewer: "So with the world changing rapidly around you, how did you decide what the best course of action might be to stay alive?"

Avery: "People."

Interviewer: "Can you elaborate on that?"

Avery: "Look, when you're out there and your ass is on the line, you need someone there to watch over it for you. You can't do it on your own. Well, you probably could for a short time, but eventually you're going to slip up. I had to learn that even though I may not have wanted people in my life, I did need them."

Interviewer: Did you always know that you would head south? Was there a specific reason for that direction choice?

Cable: "Let's just call it a feeling. I just...I guess I felt drawn there. I know that doesn't make any sense, but it's the truth."

Interviewer: Could the location of your brother have had anything to do with it?

Cable: "Lenny? Yeah, I guess it’s possible. Maybe I wanted a familiar face around while we tried to figure things out. Lenny is a good guy. Someone you can depend on. He's a survivor."

Interviewer: "So I've heard rumors about a possible budding relationship between Cable and yourself? Any truth to it?"

Avery: "No comment."

Interviewer: Cable, you don't seem like a man of many words. Have you always been like that?

Cable: "Yeah. I spend a lot of time thinking, watching people. You can tell a lot about someone when you pause long enough to just watch."

Interviewer: Is that why you felt so strongly about Avery? You saw something in her that she didn't, right?

Cable: "It's easy to be blinded to the truth. Sometimes the walls we build aren't to keep people out, but to keep themselves from being seen. Avery is a tough girl, but she's got weak spots just like everyone else. She sees them as weakness but in reality it’s what makes her strongest."

Interviewer: "Interesting. One final question for you, Avery. After all that you've been through and seen, do you think the world has a chance of coming back from this apocalypse?"

Avery: "I really hope so...cause it’s freakin' messed up out there right now."

Interviewer: And Cable, do you think there will ever be a cure?

Cable: "Sure do. That's not what I'm worried about."

Interviewer: What are you worried about then?

Cable: "That there won't be anyone left alive to use it."

Thank you, Ms. Miles, for stopping by Lily's Reviews and for the insightful character interview!
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes author Victoria Sue to the blog with a guest post. Ms. Sue would also like to offer a free book from her collection for a lucky commenter. For a list of her books, please visit the Amazon link provided near the end of the post.

"How real do you like your paranormal?

Witches? Dragons? Superheroes? Or all of the above, hmm? Yeah, me too usually. But with my Enhanced World I wanted something a little different.

All my enhanced humans are merely humans. They haven’t been zapped by lightning, cloned by aliens, and have been no where near a magic wand. They don’t suck blood or change into animals.

Not that I’m not into shifters…or blood suckers even, but not for this series.

My enhanced characters are simply humans that are undergoing evolutionary changes that I may be guilty of speeding up a few thousand years or so – but that science tells us will be possible.

For example – one of my characters in the Human Enhanced Rescue Organization (HERO) team is called Gael Peterson. Gael has an over production of the KL4 gene in his body. The KL4 gene is present in everyone and what makes your skin waterproof. I moved this theory on a little and made it bullet proof. Here’s an excerpt from Five Minutes Longer:

“I want to know what just happened,” Finn demanded as they shut the truck doors.

“You okay?” Vance asked Gael as Gael winced a little and took his shirt off. Vance brushed a hand over Gael’s back. No bullet hole, no blood.

Finn looked at the material on the shirt suspiciously, then picked it up. He carefully poked his finger through the hole in the back where the bullet had gone through, and with a sinking feeling, raised his eyes to where Vance was watching him steadily.

He thought a second before he ran his mouth off. Then he turned to Talon, who was sitting quietly in the front seat, watching him. “So next time someone’s waving a gun around, can I stand next to Gael, boss?” Finn asked innocently.

Gael guffawed and slapped Finn on the back. Finn tried not to wince.

“I take it this is your other ability? What is it, rapid healing?” Finn frowned. That still didn’t explain the lack of blood, though.

“Not exactly,” Gael answered.

“Gael,” Sawyer said warningly.

Gael looked at the guys sitting around the truck. “We’ve got a decision to make. We can’t work as a team without trust.” He looked at Finn. “To be honest the TV cameras saw me take the bullet, saw me move fast. There’s going to be questions anyway.”

Finn took a breath. “I know you don’t trust me.”

Talon interjected. “It’s not as easy as that. Even Gregory doesn’t know all our abilities, and we can’t expect you to lie if you’re asked a direct question.”

“I can change the…. I dunno.” Gael shrugged. “Last year I got skin cancer.”

Finn gaped.

“Cutaneous Melanoma, to give it its full title.” Gael’s scars twisted when he tried to smile. “It was shit really. It’s the most aggressive form of cancer, and you’re pretty much out of luck if it’s spread.” Gael gazed at Finn. “Mine had. Anyway, Talon and Gregory gave me a chance. We can’t get health insurance, and because the team wasn’t official, the bureau wasn’t gonna pay for anything…. So you met the Doc?”

Finn nodded.

“Well, turns out her daddy is one of the most renowned dermatologists there are, and he was fascinated with me. I had a shit-ton of tests, and I was waiting for the results when we were asked to help with a special op last year. Drug running, but they thought an enhanced was behind it, so they asked for our help… unofficially.”

Finn returned Gael’s smile automatically, even though his heart was doing its best to escape his chest.

“Things went wrong, and Talon got knocked out so he couldn’t help. They had Vance pinned down and were just going to shoot him. I thought, what the hell. It was likely I was going to die anyway so—”

“What he means is, he threw himself at the dick-head with the Tec-9 that was just about to blow my brains out,” Vance interrupted.

Gael chuckled. “The thing happened with my skin like you saw today. None of the bullets touched me. I went for a load of tests, and they found out there’s something called a Klf4 gene in everyone that is responsible for making human skin a barrier. Anyway, I won’t bore you with science, but basically the levels of it in me are off the charts. This gene doesn’t just protect the skin, though—it can have something to do with melanoma and other cancers. The doc called it ‘a double edged sword.’”

Finn swallowed. “It’s an activator and a repressor. That means it helps as well as harms.”

“How the hell do you know all this shit?” Sawyer burst out.

Finn shrugged. “It took me so long to learn to read, once I had, there was no stopping me.”

“Anyway, my skin changing didn’t just save Vance. When I got back and went to Doc’s, all traces of my cancer had gone, and Gregory doesn’t know because Doc’s father doesn’t work for the FBI. Doctor-patient privilege.”

“We keep it secret because we don’t want to end up as lab rats,” Talon said quietly, his blue gaze resting on Finn’s.

Finn frowned. “Secrecy won’t necessarily help that, though. The public knows you saved Cryer’s life—they’re gonna be more on your side.”

“Agreed with provisos,” Talon said. “I don’t want a perp suddenly deciding to see if Gael can withstand armor-piercing rounds.”

They all winced.

Talon started the truck and looked around at everyone. “We agreed on secrecy a long time ago. I get where Finn is coming from, but I’m not gonna insist on it. You all will have to come to your own decision.”

Without waiting for a reply, Talon added, “Gregory wants us back at the office.”

Finn stared at his back. He hadn’t forgotten what that reporter said, and despite his nice little speech there, he hadn’t done any sharing. Finn now knew more about Gael than Talon. What he knew about Talon, Vance had told him, and Talon was supposed to be his partner, not just a member of the team. It all came down to trust. Talon gave him no direction out there. He didn’t even tell Finn to stay with him. That showed a glaring lack of trust as far as he was concerned.

He gazed out of the window. He was squashed up against the door, as Gael’s bulk sat next to him. He thought about what that reporter said about Talon. Had Talon really lost control and killed his father? Finn remembered the tightness in his chest when Talon demonstrated his ability on him, how he couldn’t breathe, how he couldn’t move.

Maybe Finn should be the one not trusting the team, not the other way around.

Did you know a human can actually change their DNA? I simplified it a little (maybe more than a little) but there’s a whole science called Epigenetics behind that question. Epigenetics doesn’t come in until the second book – One Step Sideways, but it’s just as fascinating as someone getting bullet-proof skin from the same gene that develops in the uterus to make a baby’s skin waterproof.

The third book in the series – Beneath This Mask will be out in January. Here’s the blurb from the first book—Five Minutes Longer—to explain what it’s all about.

Talon Valdez knew that when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced are viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.

Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.

Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI since he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with fatal abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.

Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives are at stake—four weeks for them to survive.

I can’t wait to see everyone at Coastal Magic! Don’t forget to check out our event on Friday night. Charlie Cochet, Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison and I are hosting “Take Your Alpha To The Beach” and there will be cocktails, goodies, and prizes to be had.

Victoria Sue…

Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but when she ran out of library books she decided to write her own. Loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—especially with a paranormal twist—but always with a happy ending. Is an English northern lass currently serving twenty to life in Florida—unfortunately, she spends more time chained to her computer than on a beach.

Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.

Where to find the author:
Victoria Sue's Amazon Page
Web Site
Facebook – sign up for my newsletter and download a free story The Wrong Alpha

Thank you very much, Ms. Sue, for stopping by Lily's Reviews!
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For September, Lily's Reviews also welcomes author Jessica Scott, who was kind enough to do an interview.

Lily's Reviews: Do you listen to music while writing?
Jessica Scott: Yes, I almost always listen to music when I write. It varies, but I’m most productive when I have a song stuck in my head.

LR: If you could live near any of your characters or within any of the worlds you create, which would it be?
JS: Back in Durham. I loved living there.

LR: Out of all your works, which pairing (only one) would you choose to and why?
I think Noah and Beth are probably my favorite. That is a very personal book to me for a lot of different reasons.

LR: Who is your favorite character to write?
JS: He’s a character from my very first series, but Vic Carponti was always my favorite to write.

LR: What’s your favorite series to write?
JS: I'm enjoying the Falling series very much. It keeps surprising me on where it’s going.

LR: What makes you decide to end a series?
JS: When I lose the joy of working on it and when sales simply don’t support continuing.

LR: What was your job before being a writer? What did you study in college?
JS: I’m a full time Army officer and I have a Ph.D. in sociology.

LR: What made you become a writer?
JS: I needed a place to put all of the stories in my head and to unpack a lot of the stuff from deployment and my time in the Army.

LR: Do the seasons have any influence on what you want to write?
JS: No, but I love reading a good Christmas story.

LR: Who is the most challenging character to write and why?
JS: I think Caleb in a forthcoming book is going to be a real pain to write. Mostly because I didn’t really like him for most of the Falling series, to be honest. But he’s starting to grow on me.

LR: Describe a day in the life of Jessica Scott.
JS: Get the kids off to school, teach most mornings, lunch, email, admin work, home, dinner, put the kids to bed and then hopefully have some time with my husband before we both collapse and do it all again the next day.

LR: Do you compile any playlists while writing a book that is specific to that book?
JS: Sometimes I do but mostly my books end up with 2 or 3 songs that run through my head in various parts of writing each one.

Thank you, Ms. Scott for stopping by Lily's Reviews.
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Lily's Reviews welcomes Mary Calmes to the blog.

Ms. Calmes has written a few words about some of her favorite interactions.

Favorite fan interactions at previous Coastal Magic conventions

Last year at Coastal I was talking to fans who are also friends in between panels and we got onto the subject of Easter eggs and how many I have and Easter eggs versus cameos and how many characters have appeared in other books and it was wonderful. I love talking about my characters so much and hearing theories from others is simply the best thing ever.

Most asked questions versus questions you would like to hear asked more?
I love any and all questions. The ones where fans ask if a certain character did or did not kill someone or if a certain character got what's coming to them, are really fun as are theories about what really motivated a character to do what they did. But questions about reading order or how come Acrobat isn't under the A Matter of Time umbrella are also fun. Really and truly, I love them all. I'm always so thrilled when people care enough to ask me about my work. It's such a gift.

Do you think it would be possible to expand on the following: Easter eggs in terms of writing for those who (like me) may sort of know what it means, but not quite. :)

An Easter egg may be something like simply an appearance in another book or an entire different series. When Kane Morgan from Rhys Ford's Sinners series showed up in the second marshals book, a lot of people were excited. That was a really fun Easter egg because for fans of that series, it was oh so good to see Kane. For people who didn't know who he was, when they asked if I was going to write a book about him, I could send them right there to that series of wonderful books. It's also like Sam Kage being Miro's boss in the marshals. Lots of new fans were like, will there be a book about him and I got to say, there are 5. Also the crossover from book to book like Rand's lawyer in When The Dust Settles is Rick Jenner who met his wife in Jory's books and pops up somewhere in most of those. So it's the progression of characters in different books that people can be surprised and happy to see again.

And, from the second part, what theory or two stands out from those speculated on.

Theories like when Joey Romelli died in Acrobat, was Dreo the one who did in fact kill him? A lot of people were adamant that he did not, but if you read Dreo's dialogue and follow his character arc, you know that to protect Nate and Michael, either of them, he'd do anything. It's the like the guys in the park who hassle everyone, including Nate. Those guys are gone the next time Nate walks by and we're never clear if they'd just moved on of if they're gone, gone. But that one stands out, that Dreo didn't kill Joey Romelli when in fact, he most certainly did. Or like in the second L'Ange book, people were certain that it would be Arman and Tucker, that they had slept together. But that information was from Quade, from Quade's POV, and he thought they'd slept together but he never knew definitively. He's an unreliable narrator about himself and his own merits but also about others. So when that book came out and it was Arman and Linus instead, some people were surprised. But because it's first-person, unless its confirmed by others, it should not be taken as fact. Or when Miro finds out that Rego James killed Carrington Adams. In the AMOT books, we think that Adams brought James in, that he was the one to do that, but he was in fact not. James killed him but we don't learn that until the second marshal book, Fit To Be Tied. Discussing theories is a favorite thing of mine.

Thank you, Ms. Calmes, for stopping by Lily's Reviews!
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes author KC Burn.

From KC Burn's website: "I’ve been writing for what feels like my whole life. I’m a sucker for a happy ending (get your mind out of the gutters!) so it’s been romance almost all the way. After moving from Toronto to Florida for my hubby to take a dream job, I discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled my own dream — getting published. After a few years of editing web content by day and at night, neglecting my supportive hubby and needy cat to write about men loving men, I was uprooted yet again, and now reside in California.

Writing is always fun, despite the hard work, but writing about my guys is more fun than I’ve had in a long time. Love between consenting adults is a beautiful thing, and should be celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation. I hope you enjoy reading my stories as much as I love writing them."

Now, the fun part :) :

Lily's Reviews (LR): Do you listen to music while writing?

KC Burn: Absolutely. The music doesn’t in any way inspire or influence my stories, but it definitely helps keeps my butt in the chair!

LR: If you could live near any of your characters or within any of the worlds you create, which would it be?

KB: LOL. Well, most of my contemporary stuff is located near places I’ve lived. However, as for my paranormal and sci-fi stuff, I’d definitely have to say probably the world of my Galactic Alliance series. Interplanetary travel and sentient aliens would be the coolest thing.

LR: Out of all your works, which pairing (only one) would you choose to and why?

KB: What a difficult question! Probably Tyler and Maxwell from Illusion of Life. It was such a challenge to write that story, since the two don’t actually meet until well after halfway through the book, that I have a real soft spot for the two of them.

LR: Who is your favorite character to write?

KB: Most of my characters are dear to me, and the answer to this question would probably vary depending on which day you ask me but today I’m going to say Gideon Arcturus from Voodoo ‘n’ Vice. He was so buttoned up, so rules oriented that he almost causes a galactic incident in Alien ‘n’ Outlaw, and I need to redeem him to the point of being a sympathetic hero deserving of love in Voodoo ‘n’ Vice. I definitely adored writing him.

LR: What’s your favorite series to write?

KB: All of them! That may sound weird, but there are reasons why I like all the series I write. But if I’m forced to choose, I’m going to say MIA Case Files. A little bit campy, a whole lot of fun, and a lot of sex. I had a blast writing those.

LR: What makes you decide to end a series?

KB: My problem is too many ideas, too little time. After about three books, I certainly have plenty of ideas with which to continue a series, but other plot bunnies usually start screaming about that time. I do intend to continue my Galactic Alliance series, though, and I could easily go back and pick up any of my existing series, no problem.

LR: What was your job before being a writer? What did you study in college?

KB: Ha! How about what’s my job WHILE being a writer! My day job is website development, and while I might at some point be able to ditch the day job, at the moment I need to keep my health care. As for university, I have a degree in Physical Anthropology and another in Medieval History. Neither of which have been particularly useful since, although I used the evolutionary biology aspects of the first degree to help develop my aliens in my Galactic Alliance series.

LR: It must have been interesting to study. I love Medieval History myself (and my own 'research section' proves it). What made you become a writer?

KB: I’ve always been a reader, and when I was ten my dad gave me a copy of The Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. That was it. Game over. I knew then I wanted to be a writer.

LR: Do the seasons have any influence on what you want to write?

KB: Nope! I live in California now, and seasons are apparently nonexistent down here. I’m working on a Christmas story now, and writing about snow and sleet when it’s been years since I’ve lived in that sort of environment is always a bit challenging.

LR: Who is the most challenging character to write and why?

KB: R’kos, my alien protagonist from Alien ‘n’ Outlaw, hands down. One of the trickiest things is to create an alien that is sexually appealing, with enough differences to be “alien” but with enough similarities to enable them to create relationships with humans. Tricky, tricky. He was definitely a challenge.

LR: Which perfume/scent matches each main character?

KB: Generally, I don’t consider scent much. Adam, from Wolfsbane, though, had a particular scent that I had to scour the cologne counters to get just the right one. However… since colognes aren’t MY thing, and I didn’t name the scent in the book, I can’t remember exactly which one it was. It came in a blue bottle. If only I’d made notes… But I’m just not that organized.

LR: Describe a day in the life of KC Burn.

KB: Super dull, unfortunately. Feed the cat, feed the hubby, fire up the laptop to start my work day. Once that’s done, I try to do some writing, then start dinner. Feed the cat. After dinner, if I’m not on deadline, hubby and I will watch TV or play board games (our current favorites are Castles of Mad King Ludwig and TIME Stories). If I’m on deadline, then it’s back to the computer for more writing. That’s about it.

LR: Which character do you most relate to?

KB: A lot of my characters are fish out of water, and that’s often how I feel. However, the one that is absolutely closest to me is Dean Murphy from Three Dates of Christmas. I’m definitely a Christmas Grinch, because I also spent many years in retail, and it’s really, really hard to retain goodwill after that.

LR: Do you compile any playlists while writing a book that is specific to that book?

KB: Nope, just listen to my regular collection of music. I have such narrow musical tastes that there’s little point in separating things out into playlists.

LR: Huge thank you to KC Burn for stopping by Lily's Reviews!

KC Burn may be found at:
KC Burn
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Lily's Reviews welcomes author Aria Kane to the blog for an interview.

Welcome Ms. Kane - very glad to have you here!

Lily's Reviews: Do you like to listen to music while writing?

Aria Kane: Yes! I actually did a panel two years ago at Coastal Magic about music and writing. I often use music to help me establish the mood of a scene I’m writing, so my playlists are more about that than book-specific.

LR: If you could live near any of your characters or within any of the worlds you create, which would it be?

AK: I’d love to be friends with Derek and Andy from One Lucky Night! I’d go to the pub Derek works at and Andy’s always great if you need anything fixed around the house :-) Plus, Derek knows how everyone takes their coffee!

LR: Who is your favorite character to write?

AK: Erik from Once Upon a Darkness was probably my favorite character ever. He’s a huge guy, rough around the edges, but also kinda a teddy bear. One day, I’m going to write a book for him.

LR: What was your job before being a writer? What did you study in college?

AK: I actually still have a day job as an event planner for a library and it’s the best job ever! I studied Mechanical Engineering in college and worked in that industry for a few years, but I hated my life most days.

LR: What made you become a writer?

AK: I had always been interested in writing, but when educators found out I was good at math & science, I got pushed pretty hard in that direction. I enjoyed the coursework, but once I got in the industry, I was pretty miserable. I was a project engineer and found myself in upstate New York in late Autumn (i.e. more snow than I’d ever seen in my life) with no friends and lots of free time. That’s when I started writing again and I was hooked.

LR: Do the seasons have any influence on what you want to write?

AK: I live in Florida and we don’t really have seasons. Haha! Though you can see from my previous question that snowy weather was partly responsible for me getting into writing.

LR: Describe a day in the life of Aria Kane.

There really is no typical day. I’m an event planner so even my dayjob schedule isn’t regular. On top of that, I have some health issues, so some days I can do the bare minimum and some days I can’t stop writing. I try to work on something every day, whether it’s writing a book, taking care of emails, writing articles for Book Riot, or promo. Some days it doesn’t happen though. I’m also an incurable extrovert so I have a lively social life.

LR: Thank you very much for stopping by the blog!

Aria Kane is a recovering mechanical engineer and romance author. As a military brat, she grew up all over the country, but now lives in sunny Florida with a 60 lb mutt who thinks he's a Chihuahua.

She also writes young adult books as Sarah Nicolas.

Find her on Twitter @sarah_nicolas and on Instagram at @presidentsarah.
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Coastal Magic is a super casual convention and book signing in Daytona Beach, FL. Our goal is to bring authors and readers of urban fantasy, paranormal, and the many facets of romance together for a memorable weekend by the beach.

With panels designed to start interesting discussion, and meet & greets with fun themes, we’ve got something for just about every reader. While there IS a schedule, there is also ample time for authors and their fans to just hang out together, this is what we’re here for! Join us for reader, blogger, and author shenanigans.

Saturday’s charity book sale and signing is open to convention attendees, and also FREE to the public. We’ve got a Featured Author lineup, over 50 amazing storytellers, that showcases not only bestselling favorites, but debut and “new to you” authors that are sure to catch your attention. Come take a bite out of the beach with us!! Feb 22-25, 2018.

Here Are Some Comments From Previous Featured Authors:

“I loved the intimacy of the convention. Not too big, not too small, but still busy busy busy. It's one that every fan of PNR, UF, and Fantasy should come visit.” - Eric R Asher

“This conference HANDS DOWN IS THE BEST! Warm, friendly, atmosphere and a place where readers, writers, and bloggers can get together for great fun!” - Tigris Eden

“It’s fantastic. Intimate and funky in the best way.” “Phenomenal. SO much fun, great biz, and friendly besides. [Coastal Magic] gets better every year.” - Damon Suede

“[Jennifer] promised me Florida beaches in February, enthusiastic readers, and great, organized programming. Wow – did she ever deliver! This is now at the top of my list for favorite reader-organized conventions.” - Jeffe Kennedy

“I’ve been every year, and here’s why: it’s a community. This convention brings together authors, bloggers and readers in such a way that we all get to know each other pretty well. We become a family.” - Lucienne Diver

Social Media Links:
Hashtag on all media platforms: #CMCon18
Website: http://CoastalMagicConvention.com
Facebook “likeable” Page: https://www.facebook.com/CoastalMagicConvention
Facebook Authors & Attendees Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493110704280867
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoastalMagicCon
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/coastalmagiccon
Tumblr: http://coastalmagicconvention.tumblr.com

Coastal Magic Convention’s raffle benefits one of our local Habitat For Humanity chapters. A portion of sales from books sold through our bookseller (Books-A-Million) will go to Community Partnership For Children.
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The following picture is a must have (at some point) when I read and it requires a little bit of explanation.


The above lovelies have been picked up over the years and 'keep an eye on', if you will, on my reading at some point in time during the day.

One in the middle has been passed down to me and what started the idea.

The ones above and below it were found in New Orleans.

The other two are Venetian (yes, I'm sure :) ).

*Apologies for the unclear picture.
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Today, Lily's Reviews welcomes Mark Stevens, the author's (Gary Reilly) friend and publisher, who writes about him.....

Pablo Picasso said “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

My pal Gary Reilly felt that truth, I believe, in his soul.

One big chunk of “daily life” that Gary had to wash away was The Vietnam War.

Gary invented Private Palmer as his artistic catharsis. Gary wrote The Private Palmer Trilogy—200,000 words of keen insight into what if feels like to go to war, fight in the war, and come home again.

In The Enlisted Men’s Club (2014), Private Palmer is doing his time at The Presidio in San Francisco and the war looms. Private Palmer doesn’t know if he’ll be shipped off or not. He spends his time trying to avoid superiors with dumb ideas and meaningless chores. Briefly, Private Palmer tries to curry favor. He makes a few friends on the base and off. Mostly, he drinks as much beer as possible. Until, that is, he is sent on a somber mission that changes his life.

The Detachment (2016), takes place in Vietnam. Private Palmer is an MP and the most of the action takes place around the Qui Nhon Army Airfield, where Gary was based. Now, the war is much closer. Now, there’s more beer and stronger substances that will help you forget where you are and what you’re doing. Private Palmer walks right up to the edge of the abyss and peers over. The Detachment is told in three parts of Private Palmer’s year “in country.” The first is arrival and orientation to the new surroundings, to the sounds and sights of war. The second part is survival, mid-year. The third part is Palmer seeing the finish line—and hoping nothing happens to ruin his chances of going home in one piece.

The Discharge comes out this month (June 23). Now, Palmer (no longer “Private”) is back home in Denver and he’s trying to find his way, trying to re-establish who he is and want he wants to do after all that he’s seen. In real life, Gary Reilly at one point was very close to being a paid writer with the stand-up comedian Louie Anderson and in The Discharge, in the moving middle section, Palmer goes to California to chase this hope. In the third section, Palmer is back in Denver still looking to find his place in the world, some meaning, when he settles on driving a taxi.

And, at the very end, starting to write fiction. Palmer had one short story published in a prominent journal and we know that becoming a novelist was always a secret dream, just as it was for Gary.

What do we ask of our soldiers? What do we know of their lives mid-war? How do we treat them when they come home?

And what was it like to have lived through it? I knew Gary for the last seven years of his life. He didn’t talk about Vietnam. He preferred to chat about the latest movie he’d seen or book he’d read.

He loved stories. He knew their power.

Gary Reilly, who passed away in 2011, took all that Vietnam dust and washed it away in three brilliant, sharply written novels. (The terrific novelist Ron Carlson called The Detachment “Catch 23 or 24.”)

The Private Palmer Series is complete. The Asphalt Warrior series, eight books (so far) of comedic “dust” based on Gary’s life as a taxi driver in Denver is nearing completion. And then there are another dozen or so novels to publish that Gary left behind.

Gary Reilly knew what to do with all his experiences, heavy-duty ones or every-day working week.

Turn them into art.
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Shared from the Coastal Magic Convention site:

So… those of you who are familiar with the #Bookstagram tag on social media will recognize the process here. For each day of the month, one of our Featured Authors or Featured Bloggers will provide a picture that fits the prompt for that day. I’ll be posting their pictures on our Coastal Magic Instagram Account (which shares to our Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr), and each of you who posts your picture, as well, will be entered to win a General Registration! To enter, your picture must:

1.Contain books/book related items

2.Be posted on, and fit the prompt for each day (open to interpretation, so be creative!

3.Include the hashtag #CMCon18JunePics

4.Has to be a picture you’ve taken… not something you find online

Each person will receive one entry for each day they post a qualifying picture. Sharing on multiple platforms is appreciated, but will not earn extra entries.

Winner will be selected at random and notified when General Registration opens on July 1st. Prize is only a free general registration ($90 value); travel and hotel arrangements and payments are the responsibility of the winner.

Text and graphic (c) Coastal Magic Convention.

If there are any questions regarding the contest, please check out the Convention page here. There is a contact page, along with links to Twitter and Facebook pages.
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You have a very unique story - and one someone couldn’t really tell unless they experienced it first-hand. What inspired you to tell this story?

My two sons and six grandchildren - they’re the most important thing to me. I wanted to leave them something that had meaning. After four years of writing, I had my story down on paper about my time in a North Vietnamese prison camp, but nothing else. One of my daughters-in-law said I needed to put some of my life before and after prison into the book. A Colorado Publisher connected me with author and editor Cara Lopez Lee in 2014, and she helped me piece things together. We published Unexpected Prisoner two years later.

What do you think will surprise readers most about Unexpected Prisoner?

Even given my experience, I think readers will be surprised at my attitude toward the North Vietnamese. I don’t really have bad feelings toward them, because the treatment could have been so much worse.

How so?

When I came home from the war, I read everything I could on POWs and the Vietnam War. I learned that since the beginning of time, POWs have been treated very, very badly.

For example - In World War II, the Japanese chopped off two American heads for every mile of the Bataan death march. Twenty-seven to forty percent of American prisoners held by the Japanese died in captivity. In our revolutionary war, 20,000 colonial prisoners died in the holds of British ships in Brooklyn and Boston harbors. Five times as many colonists died on those ships as died on the battlefield. Of the 5 million Russian prisoners held by the Germans in World War II, 3 million died in captivity. The Russians captured 95,000 German troops at the battle of Stalingrad, and only 5,000 of those prisoners ever came home. Thirteen thousand union soldiers died at Andersonville within 14 months during our own civil war - that’s one soldier every 45 minutes! Our tour guide at Andersonville took 45 minutes to do the tour.

Only 7 American prisoners died in Hanoi the whole time I was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Only 28 prisoners died in North Vietnam. If you compare the treatment we received from the North Vietnamese with the treatment POWs received from their captors in other wars, ours looks pretty good.

You enjoy sharing your experience with audiences through speaker presentations. What is your favorite part of that process?

I get a rush from telling my story - it can be addictive. The audiences are always good, and I enjoy the connection with them.

How has sharing your story benefited others (and have there been any unique stories prompted by audience members)?

Many veterans - especially those who were in the infantry - seem to relate to my story. I think my story supports what many veterans went through and what they feel.

It surprised me - but I’ve also seen that teenagers have benefited from my story, as they have their own challenges and can relate to the adversity in my memoir. So really - it can appeal to anyone going through a difficult time in their life.

(Q&A, as well as the information from previous post have been forwarded to Lily's Reviews)

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In honor of Veteran's Day, Lily's Reviews is having a spotlight on the following book:

When Lieutenant Robert Wideman's plane crashed on a bombing run in the Vietnam War, he feared falling into enemy hands. Although he endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity, physical torture was not his biggest problem. During six years as a prisoner of war, he saw the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre's words: "Hell is other people." Unexpected Prisoner explores a POW's struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, his lost dreams and ultimately himself.



up.pngRobert Wideman

Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in upstate New York, and has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. He earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. He holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating.

He belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado and lives in Fort Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.

up.pngCara Lopez Lee

Cara is an author, editor, and writing coach. She has edited and/or collaborated on more than twenty books. Her stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Pangyrus, Connotation Press, and Rivet Journal. She was a writer for shows on HGTV, Food Network, and Discovery Health. She teaches for the Young Writers Program at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her writing has earned 16 awards from The Denver Woman's Press Club and Alaska Press Club. Lopez lives with her husband in Ventura, California.

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Blurb: When a border dispute between two bear clans destabilizes shapeshifter relations throughout Europe and threatens to reveal their existence to humans, the Sazi High Council orders both sides to the negotiation table. The peace talks take place in Luna Lake, the American community where all shifter species–wolf, cat, bird, bear, and more–live in harmony.

Diplomats, their families, and security personnel stream into town, among them Dalvin Adway, a Wolven agent. Dalvin is startled to find Rachel Washington in Luna Lake. The last time he saw her, they were children in Detroit. Then she was kidnapped and, he thought, murdered. But Rachel became an owl-shifter as a result of the attack and has avoided family and old friends ever since, knowing they would not understand her. She’s stunned to see Dalvin and learn that he, too, is an owl-shifter.

Their wary friendship is on the brink of becoming something more when conspiracy and betrayal cause the peace talks to break down. The fight between the bear clans will be settled through a form of traditional challenge–a risky tactic that might lead to full-blown war. Rachel is determined to prevent that, even if it means taking up the challenge herself!

Review: Last year, I was fortunate enough to read the first book in the new Sazi series, Forbidden as an ARC (review may be found here) and I have enjoyed how the story is being continued in Illicit.

The second book has been as much fun to read as the first in this new Sazi setting. There are twists and turns and layers upon layers. Misunderstandings, differing loyalties, illusions - and that is just the beginning. All of that covers the parties at the peace talks, the Council members, and Rachel and Dalvin, albeit in different ways and everything is woven and interwoven together.

I look forward to what comes next.

Book provided by publisher for an honest review.

Illicit may be purchased here.

(Cover and blurb (c)Tor)
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Please welcome Cathy Clamp to Lily's Reviews. Please be sure to check out the giveaway details at the end of the guest post.

Hi, all! Lily asked me to stop by today to talk to you about my new book, ILLICIT, which comes out TODAY!! The best way to tell you about the book is to let you read some of it. Tor Books was kind enough to feature the first chapter of ILLICIT on Tor.com:


So, go read that first. Then come back here right away, because today, only here on Lily’s Reviews, will people get a chance to read the next chunk of the book! Here then, is (most of) chapter 2 of ILLICIT. It’s only “most of” because, well . . . I want you to go buy the book to find out what happens next!


Rachel pulled the orange-patterned kerchief from her head and used it to wipe her sweaty brow. The cloth came away dark with dirt—unsurprising, since she’d been clearing out closets and cleaning up for the move. She turned off the blaring Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” leaving a sudden quiet that was almost dizzying. “Well, I think that’s about it.”

`The pile of trash bags full of garbage towered over the small stack of boxes containing things she planned to keep. So many memories were tied up inside those black plastic bags . . . horrible memories that soon would fester and rot in a landfill somewhere, out of her life at last. Rachel kicked the closest sack hard enough to make the whole stack vibrate.

“Man, I’m really going to miss you.” She turned at the sound of the medium tenor voice behind her and saw her best friend, Scott Clayton, collapse onto the couch. He’d been helping her pack. “Do you have to leave right now? It’s barely light.”

Rachel snorted harshly. Inhaling, she was surprised to smell that Scott really was wistful. The thick, wet scent of his sorrow made her respond with less sarcasm than she might have otherwise. “I wish I could have left a week ago. I can’t believe you’re going to stay. I’ve only got a reprieve until Claire’s term as town Omega ends.” Just the thought of the Ascension made her stomach sick. Maybe it started out as a good idea—Sazi testing their skills in competition instead of fighting each other—but it had turned out to be just another way to keep the lesser shifters “in their place.” Under the boot heels of those at the top.

“Claire’s an alpha,” Rachel continued. “You know that if the next challenge is between me and you, you’ll win—you’re just flat out a better flyer than I am. So if I don’t leave town now, I’ll be the Omega again. I’ll never be free.

“This owl wants to spread her wings. Every corner I turn in town, every person I see, makes me . . . damn, I just want to beat their faces in with a shovel.” She couldn’t help that there was real vitriol in her speech.

Scott shook his head; his blond hair, with its one long streak of white, fell into his face. Even though he was sweating and had been working hard, his skin was so pale that it nearly matched the streak.

“I’m staying because I want to believe Mayor Monk was the one behind everything we had to deal with,” he said. “Hell, we were mind-controlled, Rach. Why can’t you believe other people were too? He’s dead now. People should get back to normal.”

Rachel shrugged. As far as she was concerned, there was no use trying to fix what was broken in Luna Lake. “After a decade, this is normal, Scott. People who have never actually been the Omega don’t know what goes on and wouldn’t believe us if we told them.

“Hell, our own family didn’t believe how bad the abuse was, and the rest of the townspeople will lie through their teeth, deny that there were any problems.” That was the worst part . . . the lying, the hiding, the pretending.

“I still think you should go with me and Dani to Spokane. Dani wouldn’t mind you sleeping on the floor until you could get your own place, and frankly, the expenses would be easier with three. No more free ride from the town; we’re going to have to hit the street to find jobs so we can pay tuition.”

Scott leaned back and sighed. “It’s not that easy for me. I know what I want to do with my life. I want to open an herb shop, and most of what I want to sell grows in the woods around here. If I don’t live in town, I doubt the Council will let me harvest herbs. I can’t take plants from state or federal land, and I sure as hell can’t afford to buy them, even at wholesale prices. Not yet, anyway. I’ll just tough it out for a year or so, while I get my business started.

“At least those two bastards are dead,” he said with a grin that was more like a show of bared teeth.

Rachel still couldn’t believe that Mayor Monk and Chief Gabriel were gone. After the years of abuse the two men had put her and Scott through, being free of them seemed like a dream, one she kept fearing she’d wake up from.

“Maybe sane people will take over. I wouldn’t mind if one of the Kragans became mayor. They’re cool.” A smile came unbidden as she thought about the old white Cajun woman who ruled their owl parliament. Hell, black, white, or even green, Rachel had never had a real pack leader before and was thrilled that Aunt Bitty was encouraging her to find her own way.

By habit, she reached up to run her fingers through her hair and flinched when the curls fell through her grasp in just an instant. She still wasn’t accustomed to the loss of her formerly long, luxurious, straight hair. Now her hair was barely shoulder length and completely unprocessed and without product.

As always, Scott noticed. “For what it’s worth, I like the new do. Sort of predisco ’70s. You look good with shorter hair. Shows off that long, dark neck of yours. You’ll drive the guys in Spokane crazy.”

She grimaced. “I hate it. But the store-bought straightener I was using ruined the ends. I never should have stopped making my gramma’s special conditioner. When my hair started tearing off in chunks in the shower, I knew it was a lost cause.” She shrugged. “Since I’m making a big change in my life, I might as well have a big change in my looks to go with it.”

Scott smiled. “College. So cool. What are you thinking of studying?”

Sitting in the chair across from the couch, she curled her legs up under her. “I don’t know. I like to do a lot of things . . . Dani suggested not declaring a major right away. Maybe I’ll just take basic classes and try a few electives my first year and see what grabs me.”

“You’re going to sign up for a full load?”

She didn’t even have to think about it. “Oh, yeah. I’m planning on at least fifteen credit hours, more if I can do it. I want to finish in four years or less. I’m already the same age as people who are graduating, and I’m just starting school. Competition for a job in the real world will be stiff. But even college and work combined won’t be as bad as being the Omega in this hellhole.”

Scott nodded with a snort. “No doubt. When you’re used to breaking your ass for eighteen hours a day, twelve will feel like a vacation.”

The phone rang as Rachel was nodding agreement. She jumped up to retrieve her cell from to the other side of the room.

“That must be Dani. She was looking for a truck big enough to hold my bed.” Seeing Scott’s puzzled expression, she explained. “Dani’s place has only one bed—hers. It’s easier—and cheaper—to take mine from here instead of buying one there.”

Dani Williams was what Rachel had always imagined a sister would be like, though they didn’t look all that much alike. Dani was curvy, with a dancer’s grace. Rachel felt like she was a twelve-year-old in comparison, all skin and bones, without enough butt to hold up a decent pair of jeans. But she and Dani had been close from the first, trading gossip, books, and tips on hair and makeup.

Even so, Dani wasn’t her sibling, not really. A pang of regret swept through Rachel as she thought about her brothers, wondering what had become of them in the decade since she’d last seen them, the day she’d been kidnapped. Sometimes she really missed her family. Scott and Dani were supportive, but it just wasn’t the same.

She was surprised to see that the phone’s screen wasn’t displaying Dani’s name but Alek Siska’s. Perplexed, she asked Scott, “Can Alek talk yet? This call’s from his number.”

Alek had been attacked and seriously injured by the former town leaders just a few weeks earlier. Saving him, Scott had been one of the heroes of that night. Rachel was so proud of him—to go from being an omega to protecting his brother from the toughest alpha in town, wow. It gave her hope that maybe something better was out there for her too.

“Yeah, for a few days now.” Scott smiled.

Rachel nodded and accepted the call. “Hey, Alek. How’s the newest Wolven agent?” New job, new love. Good things to good people.

“Hey, Rachel.” Alek’s voice was lower than it used to be, and hoarse, but being able to talk at all after having his throat nearly torn out was very awesome. “Better every day.”

“Scott and I just finished packing. Will I see you and Claire before Dani and I leave? I didn’t realize you were out of the hospital yet.” For Alek to find Claire, another awesome. Claire was Rachel’s sorority sister in captivity. Both had been attack victims of the snakes and both had come out of that dungeon, made it through. A lot of other kids hadn’t.

He paused long enough that she prompted, “Alek?”

“Yeah . . . about leaving.” His voice was hedging, making her nervous.

“Don’t mess with me, Alek. Dani and I are leaving today. I got approval from Wolven.”

“Which . . . just got overridden by the Council. I’m really sorry, Rachel, but something has come up.”

Her expression must have been thunderous. Scott got to his feet and came toward her, his face full of concern. No doubt he could hear what was being said. One of the good things about supernatural ears. Panic made her start to pace.

“Something came up? If Dani can’t leave, that’s fine. I’ll go anyway. I’ll do anything I have to, to get out of here. Seriously, I have to be gone by Saturday.”

Claire’s voice came on the line. “Rachel, I’m really sorry about this, but it’s only for a couple of weeks.”

“Claire, you can’t let them do this to me! I have a chance to escape. Please don’t let them screw me over. I’ll wind up the Omega again, back in the cave.”

“No, you won’t,” Claire said confidently. She lowered her voice. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s not just you. It’s everyone. All trips canceled, all competitions postponed. You can’t be the Omega if there’s no Ascension challenge. The whole town is getting locked down. For peace talks, if you can believe it.”

Rachel took the phone away from her ear and stared at it. Scott looked as confused as Rachel felt. Putting the phone back to her ear, she asked, “Peace between who and who?”

“Bears, from somewhere in Europe. Warring tribes.”

From a distance, Rachel heard Alek say, “Sloths. A group of shifter bears is a sloth.”

“Okay, sloths then. The Council’s been trying to broker a deal for a while; the last time, their location in Serbia was compromised and the mediator was killed.”

“And there’s nowhere closer to go than Luna Lake, Washington?” She knew she sounded incredulous, but her mind was spinning. “Is this a joke?”

“Nope.” Alek had taken the phone back. “Apparently they couldn’t find anyplace else where people weren’t already taking sides. The only bears in our town are American ones, and as far as the Council can tell, none of them are related to anyone in either sloth.

“I’m getting the impression that this is a really big political deal, not just for the Sazi but also in terms of human politics.”

In the background, Claire said, “Tell her that I’ll take the Omega slot for another month, until she can leave. I owe it to her.”

Eyebrows raised, Rachel asked Scott, “Could that work? Can someone volunteer for the post?”

Scott shrugged. “I have no idea. Nobody’s ever chosen to be the Omega before. I mean, really . . . who would? It sucks.”

“Thanks for the heads-up, Alek,” Rachel said into the phone. “I really mean it.” She forced a smile onto her face, which she hoped translated to her voice.

“I’m really glad you’re taking this so well, Rachel. I appreciate it.”

Hanging up, she looked at her boxes and sighed. “Okay, so that’s it, I guess.”

Scott’s voice sounded sad, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Sorry, Rach. I’ll help you start unpacking. Maybe just do the important stuff, like dishes and clothes.”

Rachel shrugged, picking up her purse and heading for the door. “Your choice. I won’t be here.”

He stopped moving, giving off a concerned scent that was edged with fear. “Why? Where are you going?”

“Spokane, of course.”

She opened the door and the fresh, clean air of the hallway blew away her doubts. This was the right choice. Scott put a hand on her shoulder, and she flinched.

“You’re not thinking this through,” he said. “This is a Council decision. Don’t mess with them, Rachel. It’s not worth it.”

The snort came out as bitter sounding as she felt. His hand started massaging her shoulder. She didn’t turn to look at him . . . couldn’t bear to see if his expression matched the scent of sorrow that filled her nose. “Of course it’s worth it, Scott. Freedom is always worth it. I’d forgotten that. But I never will again.”

The hand paused, then let go. Did she hear a snuffle from him? No, don’t look. Her eyes started to burn and her breath had developed a hitch.

“Good luck, girlfriend,” he said. “Fly free.”

A hint of his clove-tinged pride buoyed her as she walked out into the apartment building’s hallway. The door shut behind her with a soft click. Every step away she took from her apartment, the gilded cage of her Omega status, the better she felt. The rusty shit-brown Pontiac next to the building looked like the sleekest Porsche in the world to her at that moment. As she opened the door and slid behind the steering wheel, she heard the thup-thup of helicopters overhead. It wasn’t light enough to see them yet, but there wasn’t much time. The clock was ticking.

The moment she started the engine, she pressed Play on the CD player. The whirring while the disks shuffled lasted only a few seconds and then the all-knowing ’80s car picked one of her Patti LaBelle favorites—“New Attitude.” That was exactly right. She cranked up the volume and started to sing.

Nearing the edge of town, she felt the first brush of an aversion spell. A strong one. No surprise they would try to lock down the town, keep the locals in and make humans want to avoid the area, overcoming any natural curiosity about multiple helicopters landing.

“Okay, I can do this. Just gotta keep my foot on the gas.” She pressed down on the accelerator and felt the powerful old engine drive the car forward. She opened the window, hoping the fresh air would give her courage, but instead full-blown fear hit her, as if a tiger were charging right toward her. Fighting the paralyzing panic, Rachel jammed her foot down on the gas pedal. If she could just get through the spell’s area of influence . . .

Her skin began to crawl, the hairs standing on end and seeming to try to pull out of her skin. It felt like tiny, unseen ants were biting and stabbing her. She gasped for breath.

Bad, bad, bad. Something bad is coming. Fly! Fly home! Hide!

Her heart was beating so fast her head was throbbing and there were flashes in her vision. Rachel gripped the steering wheel for all she was worth, struggling to resist the urge to turn the car around, determined to ride it out. Surely the spell couldn’t cover more than a mile. Could it?

The road flew under her, but the panic didn’t ease. In fact, it got worse, until it was all she could do not to pass out. When the car started to slow, she was almost relieved, until a new fear hit her. Why was she slowing down? Her gaze dropped to the speedometer: the needle was dropping, from 70 to 60, 55, 45, 30 . . .

She checked the gas gauge. Plenty of gas. WTF?

The engine stopped. All the lights on the dash turned red.

The car rolled to a stop, the music silenced.

Shifting into Park, Rachel tried the key again and again. No response, not even a sound from the engine. The car was dead.

Her overwhelming fear faded to a level that was powerfully unnerving but not deadly. Rachel drew a deep breath, then nearly shrieked when a mass of feathers fluttered outside her window.

“Going somewhere?” The golden-feathered owl that had landed next to her car was the biggest she’d ever seen, and she wasn’t entirely positive which species it was. She could tell it was an alpha, though, for it spoke in a rich baritone and gave off such strong magic that she felt like she was standing next to a blast furnace—which she remembered doing once, years earlier, when her Girl Scout troop toured a foundry.

She tried to keep her voice calm, but it was hard to get words out. “Spo . . . Spokane. Just . . . heading . . . home. But the car died.”

The golden eyes blinked and the owl shook his head. “Not today, you’re not. No unnecessary travel. That’s why I killed the spark. Don’t tell me you didn’t get the message, because we had confirmation that everyone was called.”

She tried to respond. She honestly did. But his power, combined with the aversion spell, was simply too much. It was all she could do to breathe.

He noticed. “Oh. Yeah, shielding would probably help. My bad.” The owl shifted forms, turning into a tall, handsome dark-skinned man whose close-cropped hair looked as soft as down. To Rachel’s surprise, he looked like he was wearing clothes—blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Only the most powerful Sazi could create such illusions. Rachel had never known anyone other than Asylin Williams, her guardian, who had that ability. In the same instant, his magic was sucked back inside him and the immense weight on her chest lessened. “Is that better?”

She nodded. “Much. Who are you?”

“I’m with Wolven. That’s all you need to know.” He opened the driver’s door. “Scoot over. We’re heading back to town.”

Her fingers tightened on the steering wheel and she didn’t budge. “Maybe you are. I’m going to Spokane.”

He glared down at her, his scent not angry but stern. “Look, we’re not here to tromp on your rights, but you know I can freeze or discipline you, right? You don’t get to say no to a Wolven agent.”

Rachel’s mouth set in a tight line, and she glared what she hoped were daggers at him. She knew she would regret what she was about to say, but she couldn’t stop herself. Tensing her muscles, preparing for the pain that was sure to come, she said, “No.”

There was no agony. She wiggled her pinkie. Not frozen either. She risked a sniff of the air, and the scent made her look at his face, where she saw bemusement mixed with frustration. He crossed his arms over his chest and raised his brows. Something seemed familiar about his expression, but she couldn’t place it.

“You’re going to be a pain in my butt the whole time we’re in town, aren’t you?”

“Probably.” It was the truth. “I need to leave this place, and unless you kill me, I’m going to keep trying.”

He shook his head and sighed. “Go,” he said, waving a hand in dismissal. “I’ll lose a strip of hide for letting you leave, but better another one now than the dozen you’re likely to cause me later.” He turned and started to walk back toward town.

Before he could change his mind, Rachel turned the key and . . . miracle! The car started right up. Had the Wolven agent really killed the engine from a distance? She had never heard of anyone doing that. But that was a question for another day. Shifting into Drive, she hit the gas, hearing the tires spin for purchase as the music started to blare again. Free! Her heart soared.

Seconds later, she braked hard and pressed the Off button on the CD player. “Do they really take an actual strip of hide?” She’d heard the phrase so many times: Ooo! Better be careful. You’ll lose a strip of hide for that. The rat bastards that ran the town had never actually done it, but something in the owl shifter’s voice told her it was no mere figure of speech.

The Wolven agent stopped walking and turned to stare at her. He took a deep breath and approached the car. As he neared the back bumper, the illusion of his shirt disappeared. Like most birds she knew, his chest was wide and muscular. He lifted his right arm and she winced at the sight of a wound, raw and red, under his arm, along his rib cage. The shape and size of a playing card, the injury was just starting to heal. If that was illusion too, it was a good one.

“Yes. They do. It’ll take until the next moon to heal, and it hurts like hell to fly. It’s usually done with a silver knife, but this was made with silver-tipped claws. Go. Better me than you. I can tell you’re not alphic, and a wound like this could really mess you up, especially if it got infected.”

“Crap! What did you do to get that?” Unable to help herself, she reached out to touch it. He stepped back, out of reach.

He shrugged, smelling hot and bitter, like he was ashamed of whatever he’d done. “Something stupid. I deserved it. Sort of like now. Last chance . . . go. Before—”

The engine died again. Damn it! A new voice, a deep, growling baritone, filled the car. “Before what, agent? Before I show up?” Something heavy thumped onto the roof, and Rachel ducked instinctively.

The light in the car changed. Rachel turned toward the passenger window to find it covered with thick, coarse black fur.

The man on her left spoke to what she presumed was a bear shifter, if the hideous, rancid musk smell was any indication, over the top of her car. It had to be a damned big bear, judging by the fact that she couldn’t see its head. “No . . . sir. Before the delegates arrive. This woman is an omega, and an owl. She’s no threat to anyone. If she leaves before anyone arrives, there’s no reason to think the peace talks would be in any danger.”

There was a pause, then a sarcastic response with a thick accent from the carpet of fur to her right. “Oh, then I suppose you’ve run a comprehensive background check in the few minutes since we landed? You know for positive this woman has no bear family members and hasn’t been bribed or coerced into spying or setting a bomb before getting away from the fallout? Omegas are known to do that.”

What? Rachel’s mouth dropped open. “Hello? Rude much?” she said, turning toward the mass of fur. “I’m right here. I’m not some sort of whack-job terrorist. And, by the way, who the hell are you to question my background or ethics?”

The fur moved. As it did, the driver’s door was yanked open and the owl shifter pulled her out of the car. The very real fear that was bleeding from the owl’s every pore and the fury coming off the bear shifter in waves were nearly overwhelming.

Getting her feet under her, Rachel looked at the Wolven agent currently leaning on her car. She’d never seen the high school principal—the only bear in Luna Lake—in his animal form and had never been this close to a natural bear. Still, she was sure that this bear was far too large to be normal.

Snarling, it towered over her car. Paws the size of hubcaps flexed, driving claws the size of carving knives through the steel roof of the Pontiac, which bent and protested with a screeching sound before giving way. The bear had put its claws through her car without even breaking a sweat, if bears sweated! Holy baby Jesus!

The owl shoved Rachel behind his back and she stayed there, frozen in terror, heart pounding as tension flooded the air, the scent strong enough to make her sneeze.

“Tamir, don’t,” her protector said. “This is between us. It has nothing to do with her.”

“This has everything to do with her, because it has to do with your judgment. You’re supposed to be protecting the delegates. You know I would never have picked you for this assignment. People have died where you were assigned.”

“I’m pretty sure you were on that same assignment. In fact, I think your body count is higher than mine. Maybe we need to ask the delegates who are still alive which one is the better protector.”

Whoa. Peeking around the owl agent, Rachel said, “For what it’s worth, I feel a lot safer around the one who pulled me out of my car rather than the one who just destroyed it.”

The owl shifter turned his head sharply. “Quiet. Be grateful it’s just your car.”

Though she could see his shirt, only skin brushed her hand when he moved. With a jolt, she recalled that despite what her eyes saw, she was pressed up against a stranger’s very naked backside. She took a step back, nearly blushing.

The bear—Tamir—reared back and pulled his claws out of her roof. “Return her to town. The councilman will decide who should be punished . . . and how.” With that, the bear turned and loped off into the trees, shrinking before her eyes until he was the size of the wild bears she’d sometimes spotted from a distance in the forest, near the lake.

The owl was just short of livid, and Rachel didn’t know if he was angrier with her or the bear. He opened the driver’s side door.

“You should have gone when you had the chance,” he said flatly. “Get in.”

Rachel wanted to stand firm, wanted to appear as tough as the two Wolven agents, but knew she wasn’t. She was all bluff and bluster, as her gramma used to say. Plus, this man had risked his neck for her. She got in the car and slid over into the passenger seat, ducking to avoid the sharp slivers of metal hanging down around the puncture holes in the roof.

Without another word, he seated himself behind the wheel. When he slammed the door, the whole car shook. He started the engine, threw the car into gear, and soon had them turned around and heading for Luna Lake. After a long silence, broken only by the sound of his fingers thrumming on the steering wheel, Rachel sighed and said, “Sorry.”

He grunted in acknowledgment but didn’t respond, which annoyed her, and the smell of his anger continued unabated. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the side window. Jerk.

She reached over and turned the music back on. She didn’t sing, though—with a pissed-off Wolven agent in the car, that seemed somehow . . . inappropriate. But she kept the mantra in her head. New Attitude. I am in control. She noticed that his fingers began to tap in time with the beat of the music.

As they drove into town, Rachel spotted a half dozen or more strangers wandering along the street next to the police station. The Wolven agent parked near the station and took her keys, then hopped out of the car. Rachel was reaching for the passenger door handle when he opened it from outside. She wasn’t sure whether he acted out of courtesy or suspicion that she might bolt, but she thanked him as she got out and stood up.

The area was full of animal smells she didn’t recognize—exotic cats and birds and even a snake. That made her head turn, searching—she knew the scent of snakes all too well. The odor pulled an old fear from deep inside her, something she thought she’d overcome. She eyed the newcomers with suspicion but couldn’t figure out who smelled of reptile.

Her foster father, John Williams, separated from the crowd and half ran toward the car. He pulled her into an abrupt, powerful hug. It surprised her, since he wasn’t much of a hugger. His thick green cable sweater was warm against her face. “For God’s sake, Rachel! You could have been killed. What were you thinking?”

What could she say? He put a dark, cool hand on the side of her head, pressing her cheek against his fluffy sweater. His smell, warm feathers and cologne, made her feel safe. She whispered, “There’s a snake in town, Dad.”

He hugged her even closer as warm concern flooded her nose. “Is that why you ran? He’s a councilman, just here to check security. He’s leaving. A cat will be taking his place for the meetings.”

She decided to let John believe the snake was why she’d tried to escape. “As long as he’s leaving.”

She felt his head turn as he addressed the owl shifter who had captured her. “Thank you for bringing her back. She still has PTSD from her time with the snakes. But she’s not a spy or a threat. Please don’t let them hurt her, Agent Adway.”

Adway. Wow. That was a surname she hadn’t heard in a long time . . . in a lifetime. The owl agent let out a long sigh. “It’s not up to me. I’m not in charge of this operation. But I’ll try to get them to understand. What’s her name, so I can pull her file?”

Sliding out of John’s hug, she faced the other man, holding out her arms in frustration. “Again . . . right here in front of you. What is it with you guys?” Not really expecting an answer, she continued, “I’m Rachel Washington.”

The owl’s jaw dropped and his eyes narrowed. He stared at her for a long moment, pointing at her with one finger. All that came out of his mouth was, “You—” Abruptly he spun on his heels and sprinted toward a black SUV a dozen feet away.

Her dad put his hands on his hips, raising his shoulders and lowering his head just a bit, like he would in owl form when annoyed. “Well, that was rude. What’s his problem?”

She shook her head, staring after the agent and feeling a weird mixture of gratitude and frustration. “Pfft. They were both like that.”


How to explain? “Another Wolven agent, I’m guessing this guy’s boss, stopped us on the road. He’s a big black bear and he was a total jerk. Look what he did to the top of my car!”

John blinked at the sight of the roof, where four messy punctures cut through to the headliner inside. “Okay, that is not acceptable. Someone needs to fix this.” He glanced around, then nodded and touched her shoulder. “Wait here.”

Rachel had no intention of waiting. She wanted to hear more about what was happening in town, so she followed her dad over to the trio of vehicles parked near the diner. He called, “Excuse me, Mrs. Monier?”

A short, slender woman with reddish-blond hair, dressed in a fluffy tan jacket with a fur ruff that matched the trim on her boots, turned away from a small group of strangers. Amber Monier had been hanging around town since Monk and Gabriel had died, and Rachel assumed the bobcat shifter was part of Wolven. The woman had never taken the time to introduce herself around, which Rachel thought was bad manners. Bitty seemed to know her quite well, based on things the older woman had said.

“Actually, it’s Wingate. Monier was my maiden name, but old friends like our esteemed snake councilman tend to still call me that.”

A few steps behind her father, Rachel crossed into scent range just as the woman said “snake.” The reptile’s scent made the young owl stumble to a stop and gasp for breath. Her father must have been trying to protect her from this when he told her to stay away.

She saw the snake now, right in front of her. He was tall and Middle Eastern in appearance, with a clean-shaven, narrow face . . . a viper’s face. He wore a headdress similar to the keffiyehs she’d seen back home when she was growing up, but the cloth flowed like silk and was embroidered with golden thread that glowed in the rising sun. From the side, he looked just like the man her captors had spoken about in hushed voices, the man she’d seen only once: Sargon, who had inspired emotions far beyond terror.

Like Sargon, this man absolutely reeked of power, which was cast out around him in a halo of pain. Maybe it wasn’t the sun that made his headdress glow. Her skin burned, her hair felt ready to ignite into flame. She couldn’t go any closer. He was just standing there, with people fawning over him. Even her dad had slowed and bowed his head.

Owls do not bow to snakes! She had to master her fears.

"How dare you show your face among owls! How dare you!" She spat the words, shouting across the distance that her body couldn't tread.

All conversation stopped, all faces turned toward Rachel. The snake’s gaze met hers. He narrowed his eyes and started to walk toward her. Though Rachel’s instincts screamed fly! her feet were frozen, as though set in cement. Her dad tried to step between them, but the snake’s hand made a slight movement, tossing John aside as easily as if he were brushing off a mosquito.

The owl agent walked up to the snake without hesitation and put a hand on the taller man’s shoulder. The snake again tossed his hand lightly and seemed surprised when the owl was able to grab him, momentarily arresting his motion. His brows raised in an almost elegant way, but his scent was thick and oily, as angry as a pan burning on the stove. The agent dipped his head, staring at the snake’s neck, but his voice was calm and steady when he said, “Your eminence, please. She was one of those rescued from the cave.”

The snake looked at Rachel again. He nodded once. The woman who smelled of cat touched his other arm. Power burned between them, hot enough to scorch as the cat tried to hold back the snake. Rather than fight her, he turned his head slightly and said quietly, “Release me, Amber. You know this must happen.”

Something unspoken passed between them, Rachel could tell. When the cat dipped her head and stepped back, so did the owl.

They were going to let him kill her!

WOW! You know you need to find out what happens next, right? Well, go forth! It’s available today. Rachel rocks and Dalvin being stunned by her name is a key moment in the story. Thanks for dropping by! Enjoy!

Thank you Ms. Clamp for stopping by Lily's Reviews!

Giveaway: One commenter will receive a print copy of Illicit by Cathy Clamp. Giveaway will end on November 7 at 11:00 P.M. with a name drawn at that time. Please leave a valid e-mail address along with your first name in the comment section.


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